Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baptism

In the Christian faith, baptism is one of the most important events in a person's life.  Usually baptism occurs when a person is an infant, but many times it is done later in life when the individual converts to faith.  Often times the event of a baptism happens during a church service.  I and many of you, I am sure, have witnessed dozens of baptisms during services such as these.  As Christians, we are always taught about the importance of baptism as mentioned above and how powerful and miraculous of an event it is.  I must confess, though, that not knowing the child being baptized or his/her family sometimes makes it incredibly difficult to appreciate the significance of what I am witnessing. 

Today I had to unspeakable pleasure to witness and sponsor the baptism of my goddaughter, Hannah.  Hannah is just a few weeks old and is the second child of my very good friends.  I remember when they told us the they were expecting and how excited my wife and I were when they asked us to be godparents.  I joked that I was going to slick my hair back during the service and wear a suit like Al Pacino.  When we stepped up to the font today to speak for her, an indescribable feeling fell over me.  It is certainly true that God is present all around us all the time, but there are few circumstances in which one can say "I could really feel the presence of God."  Today as Hannah had the water poured on her was one of those times.  I could almost see in my mind's eye God holding her in his arms like a father does his new born child, smiling down at here with sincere and heartfelt eyes.

The feeling that this gave me was twofold: first it made me ashamed that I had taken the baptisms of so many children for granted as I watched from 15 rows back.  It took seeing the miracle up close and personal that made me realize how amazing of an event each one of them were.  Second, it filled me with joy that cannot possibly described in any sentence, in any story, or in any phrase.  To look down on a little baby and know that she is saved is one of the best feelings a person can ever have. 

What all of these things made me think of is something I do not think of often enough: my own baptism.  While none of us who were baptized as infants can remember the day or the events surrounding our baptisms, we can always remember the result of the baptism and that is that we are saved by the washing of our sins away in Jesus' blood.  Whenever I witness baptisms, from this time forth, I will always remember how magnificent of an event it is and how blessed I am to have been washed with the same spirit as the person being baptized.  Finally the phrase "Remember your baptism" has a more profound, serious meaning to me.

2 comments:

  1. I may be a little biased in my opinion of this article because it was my child that was baptized today, but the general assesment of the actions surrounding the event are very accurate as from a parents point of view. Being the parent bringing this child to the font and trying to instill a knowledge of God in my older child, the baptism is an inexpressible event, but is easy to kind of forget about. Unfortunatelly I think we have kind of forgetten about celebrating baptism with Ani, but I hope in the future I can, as her father and spiritual counselor, continually reminder that she has been baptized into the death and resurrection of her savior, Jesus Christ.

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  2. Well said, Robin.

    To baptize an infant is totally right and appropriate, for all the work is God's, not ours. But the one thing I envy about Christians who have been baptized as adults is that they seem to cherish that event more. Most Lutherans don't really understand what's going on here. They see baptism as an event that happened in their past, a ritual, "a thing ya gotta do because...you just gotta do it."

    This lack of understanding shows itself often in the choices parents make in who serves as Godparents. They pick friends or relatives without thinking about what they're truly asking of this person - to ensure they are raised in Christ, should the child lose his parents.

    Baptism is not a singular event from our past. It's an event that we are to continually draw power and strength from, as Luther tells us in his explanation in the Catechism: Through daily contrition and repentance, the Old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires, so that a new man can daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity.

    I love the scene in the movie "Heretic" where Luther, feeling the torment of Satan as he translates the New Testament into German, shouts "I am baptized!" Immediately he feels the peace of Christ and the absence of the devil.

    Pretty cool.

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